Nigeria And The Politics Of Anti-Intellectualism

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Globally, the political system is mostly driven by a desire to be elected and re-elected. And as political floods of greed, hate, class warfare, tribalism and religion continues to shake Nigeria’s democracy, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has continued to give laughable yet confusing explanations on why their scorecard is richer than that of their predecessors. In response, the ousted People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has recurrently called on Nigerians, with cruel aspersion, to send APC packing in the 2019 Polls.

For the most part, deep-seated problems like religious violence, kidnapping, insecurity and poverty have continued to threaten the lives of the ordinary citizen. As a result, enraged, embittered and aggrieved Nigerians are turning on each other daily.

Basically, both parties seem to have failed Nigerians in a very important area like power generation. This is costing the poor masses their jobs as the cost of powering generator plants by industry discourages productivity. Since it is usually cheaper to produce commodities outside the shores of Nigeria, most industries would rather establish their factories outside the country as it reduces the cost of production.

As the political dramas continues to unfold, a disturbing scenario, perhaps, is how both parties have continually dandled the masses with promises of a polychromatic economy without backing their narratives with any form of statistical justification for re-election or dismissal.  As a rule, they want Nigerians to, in perpetuum, keep the spark of hope alive even when the consistency of failed promises has kept the masses in perpetual lack and suffering.

Perhaps, this culture of feeding the public with lies is witnessing an upswing because the political class deeply understands some theories that has produced results globally.

Here is how the first theory goes: It is better to manipulate the masses into subscribing to a system of anti-intellectualism when it comes to political analysis. This system, if well built, becomes so infallible that any nonconformist can be labelled an enemy of the state. In principle, a legion of ignorant yet dogged polemicist are hired to echo or cheer the misleading narrative that “the economy is doing great and Nigerians are happy about it, power generation is on the rise, Boko Haram has been technically defeated”. Meanwhile power generation has plummeted, and insecurity has assumed a more alarming dimension. In any event, people who dare draw attention to promises made before elections, or how nepotism is the order of the day are declared the enemies of democracy.

Obviously, the political class and their base have spent so much time within the boundaries of their corridors of well-being and mass pleasure so much that they don’t have a clue about what is going on beyond it. They see the prosperity of Nigerians through the lens of their political base instead of a dependable system of political scorecard drawn from an unprejudiced database. This leads us to another issue.

The Nigerian nation mostly depends on statistics from foreign organizations. Currently, the parameters or data used in arriving at different conclusions regarding the economy is gathered and housed in the systems of establishments outside Nigeria. No nation can make progress using statistics by other organizations other than its own. But again, the government will always manipulate data to favor itself. Therefore, Nigeria needs a home-based independent watchdog.

In the second theory, the political class seem to have mastered the art of exploiting the remarkable capacity of forgetfulness in the lower class. They are very skilled in the concept that statistics of a government’s performance usually takes a backseat in the mind of the common man if a couple of Naira or goods exchange hands, or his immediate need is taken care of. Hence, they invest in this setup that makes the common man to quickly push aside the disappointment of failed promises made to him.

Evidently, our society is looking like one that is clearly out of ideas. But political foot soldiers and keyboard warriors are unruffled by these challenges. Even the youths are now divided into two classes. On the one side is a group that seeks knowledge or truth, and on the other is a group that creates doctrine and fronts a grotesque form of victim-blaming theory. Instead of intellectually analyzing the government’s inconsistencies and inabilities, they kyoodle and permeate local and online communities with falsity.

No doubt, the politics of anti-intellectualism, which has since been tamed and held captive by the influential, is a creature of our own making.  Be that as it may, it is critical for us to keep in mind that the ills of a small community, if not addressed appropriately, can become the ills of the society or nation in general.

Most floods are caused by storms.  In the case of Nigeria, the politics of anti-intellectualism is only the flood, not the storm. It is the mechanism that is leading to collapse of sanity in the society - but not the cause. It is a symptom of a deeper national catastrophe. If we continue to make religion, regionalism and tribalism, and anti-intellectualism the basis or concept by which we elect or support our leaders, we might end up settling for dogma and jingoism, instead of pursuing and engendering truth and good governance needed to put food on the table of the common masses.

It is high time that our politicians, and Nigerians in general, invested in issues-based politics instead of politics of anti-intellectualism and jingoism, or of looking at politics with the prism of region, religion, ethnicity and so on. This will certainly change things positively for nation that, originally, should have no business with poverty.

 

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The Institute for Media and Society is an independent, non-governmental organization based in Nigeria. The institute was established in April 2000. In establishing the organization, we considered and were convinced of such issues as: the inter-relationship between the well-being of a society and its media as well as between the state of the media and the responsiveness and growth of societal institutions. the institutionalization of democracy and development in Nigeria being nourished by a free and pluralistic media structure, culture and environment.

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